I had my very first experience with henna a while back here in the UAE. It was pretty neat, a little different than I expected as well.
Looking at the demographics of UAE, it is easy to see why henna is fairly commonplace. Henna has a very long history in many areas and the word “henna” is actually derived from an Arabic word and also called Mendhi (A Hindu word)(History of Henna). There is some argument about where it actually originated. I love the use for decorating the skin for weddings, special occasions, and even just for fun. any use really, it’s cool. I didn’t know until doing a little research that henna is also used to dye the hair and can be a cooling agent.
Reasonably so, there is variation in the use and type of design depending on the region it is used. Arab designs are described as large, abstract, floral and open usually on the hands and feet. Indian designs are smaller, more ornate and floral but covering hands, forearms, feet and shins. African designs are large geometric shapes and abstract symbols in a simple show (History of Henna). I lean towards the Arab style most but I do like bits of more ornate patterns that are Indian and even some geometric elements.
It was pretty easy to find a Salon that had a henna artist. It took a little while because of the details and would take longer or less time depending on the space I would want covered and how ornate the design is. I opted for just my hands. It was difficult to not bump it while it was drying! Once it’s dry enough the henna flakes off. I was advised to rub it with olive oil, Vaseline, or baby oil once it was completely dry and the flakes removed. That is supposed to make it last longer. It was much lighter than I expected, and was darker in spots that had thicker dye. It got darker over the first day or two, and from there it get’s lighter as it wears off (I wash my hands a lot because of kids so it washed off on the backs of my hands and on my fingers before the week was up).
Side note: The women’s Salons are for women only. All the windows have a lining of some sort or shades, and even curtains or a partition near the door so that no man can peer in to see women without their Hijab. (There are also men saloons and they have clear windows and doors) As a woman it feels like I am in a special club and the atmosphere is inviting, friendly, and relaxed in these “women only” areas. In a society where women dress very differently in public than I am accustomed to in America, it is nice to see them all together in a relaxed setting. aside from clothing though, there are no differences. These women are friendly. They are helpful. They care about those around them. Women in the UAE are some of the best in the world.
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